Q: Due to some organizational changes, I will need to have conversations with team members about ways they fit in the new structure and changes that may affect them as roles change. These may be difficult; how can I best prepare and help them move forward? —Ellie, 40, director, operations
A: Be authentic, open to the emotional aspects people will be experiencing, and share information as fully as you can.
Change is hard for many people; even when it presents new opportunities for growth it can be intimidating. In your situation, there seems to be a strong element of uncertainty. Moreover, reading between the lines, it appears likely that some people may not have roles in the new world.
Plan to spend time preparing for these discussions. Focusing first on the overall picture, how much has been firmly established about what is going to occur, and how much is still evolving?
Within this, think through how much you can share, making sure there’s a genuine business reason if you need to keep information close. Consider carefully the skills you are seeking in the new roles. Then consider each team member’s fit with current capabilities, as well as capacity to adapt.
Timing for sharing the information is important; anxiety will grow as information sharing is delayed. Get out there early through group meetings or team emails, sharing what you can to try to dispel rumors.
Talk with people individually. Lay out the situation as you see it in a neutral, factual way. Then ask people for their feedback on how they see themselves fitting. For example, if a role is becoming more data-intensive, a more conceptual thinker may see for themselves that the position will not fit and decide to look for new roles, either at the company or elsewhere. Having some control over the situation will make it much easier for those team members.
Then there are the change-averse folks who you want to keep on board. One on one, take the time to understand their concerns, allaying them to the extent possible. There may be concerns about being able to rise to new challenges; there may also be survivor guilt.
Your toughest challenges will probably be with people who you don’t think will be able to make the transition, but who want to try. Provide the support you can while following the company’s lead on the speed of making changes.
Across all these situations, there will be a broad range of emotions associated with the change. Even for people with good outcomes, there’ll likely be some challenging emotions to deal with. The more you can validate these, the stronger the team will be.
As you move through the changes, be sure to keep checking in with people. It’s not enough to have an open door; reach out so that people won’t simply ruminate or, worst case, leave your team because they don’t feel supported.